Many sports put forward tall players. I know that everybody can play any sport, but I've noticed that in professional teams (basketball, volleyball, soccer, tennis, ...) there is a tendency to see tall people.

It's maybe due to advantages that high sizing can provide. It's depending of each sport.

So I would like to know if there is some sports for which the fact to be smaller than his adversary can be a distinct advantage?

  • 2
    I think is not possible to find a unique right answer. You will probably find a list of good answers: one for each sports
    – Ale
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 16:38

12 Answers 12


So I would like to know if there is some sports for which the fact to be smaller than his adversary can be a distinct advantage?

Yes they do exist.

But here's one example:

In horse racing, having a smaller and lighter rider is more advantageous. It lets the horse sprint faster because there's less weight on its back.

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Source: taken of wikipedia


Gymnasts are also usually quite small, there is actually some debate over whether gymnastics can affect growth (but I don't think there is much evidence behind this). According to this website American gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas is

four feet, eleven inches, and 90 pounds

. http://www.boston.com/sports/blogs/statsdriven/2012/08/the_bodies_of_champion_gymnast.html

Also height isn't always an advantage in soccer, just look at the average height of the Barcelona team (Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro etc).

  • Height is important in soccer, just differently per area. As a winger, being shorter allows you to move with more control. Defenders, and center forwards needs height in order to win headers. etc.
    – unbindall
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 22:06

In cricket being short may not help you in selection in the team. But if a player is a batsman, he may get some advantages in batting. (or disadvantages for tall players do not apply)

  • Tall players have to bend more than short players while batting.
  • Bowlers have to bowl under their shoulders otherwise it will considered a No ball (after two bouncers). So they have to shorten their length.
  • They can play yorker length ball better than tall players because normally short players have high backlift and tall players have to keep the bat lower while playing the shot.

However, if you are a bowler (specially fast bowler), being a taller is an advantage.


I can think of a couple instances where it is an advantage for the athlete to be small. They are both "racing" situations, and the athlete in question is a "controller."

The first is the "coxswain" (caller) on a rowing team. His function is necessary, but the smaller he is, the less burden on his teammates.

The second, as someone else pointed out, is a jockey on a horse, where the jockey has the dual role of controlling the horse and not being a burden on the horse.


In Curling athletes with a low center of gravity (smaller one generally) are helped in the stability of the slip.

The stability of the slip is one of the most important feature to be a strong curler.

During the action of broom is important the hands and back power, while during the slip is important to have muscolar legs, so power and compact athletes have a slight head start

low center of gravity


Besides all sports that have been mentioned already, I would like to add shorttrack to that list. Being short and having little weight gives the rider an advantage to be more agile while fighting for the best positions and taking over other riders.

However, this does not mean that taller riders cannot compete with the best, since they might bring more power. Ter Mors, for example, is often by far the tallest rider on the ice.


Distance running is another sport where a smaller athlete may have an advantage. When work = mass * distance, an athlete with smaller mass will do less work to cover the distance. If two athletes have the same capacity for rate of work - that is, they can do the same amount of work in a given span of time - the lighter one will win a race. There are limits to this - at some point being lighter limits your capacity to do work - but in general lighter is better for distance runners.

  • 1
    I suspect this applies to a lot of endurance sports.
    – Philip Kendall
    Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 14:07
  • Probably. The tradeoffs between the mass needed to increase work capacity (for lack of a better phrase) and the lack of mass which lets you cover more distance with the same work are going to be slightly different with every sport. Is smallness an advantage in road cycling, for example? There's relatively little penalty for additional mass in distance swimming that I can think of, assuming it's not dead weight. But ultimately physics has the final word.
    – pjmorse
    Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 14:37


From wikipedia: in shooting sports, a shorter shooter can maintain better balance when standing for long periods of time holding a gun, as well as keep their gun steady.



Motorsports, like most other racing sports, typically favors drivers that are lightweight, which gives smaller, lighter drivers an advantage.

While most motorsport organizations feature a minimum chassis weight in the regulations, this often does not take driver weight into consideration. This allows cars with lighter drivers to have a slight weight advantage against cars with heavier drivers.

This is prevalent in open-wheel racing, particularly karts, where the karts themselves are all but equal in weight, and the differences mainly come from the driver's weight.

TL;DR, Regulated car weight + lighter driver allows for faster, more agile movement vs. cars with heavier drivers.


Rock climbing

Lead climbing and bouldering nowadays tends to favour smaller / lighter people than taller / heavier. I know this can end up as a long debate, but for a shorter person looking for a sport this is something to look into!


I do gymnastics for many years and many boys in our training are smaller than the average guy. I think when you have to control your whole body it is easier when you haven't a tall body. Also you have to be quickly with your legs and my taller girlfriend in training for example ist often to slow for some jumps. So I can say to be smaller is in gymnastics an advantage.


There are some sports where tall people better fit, for example basketball. Actually it's only basketball I can think of. As a soccer player my whole life, I can say that short attacking players are better than tall players. I can give you a simple example:

  • Diego Maradona
  • Lionel Messi
  • Romario
  • Wesley Sneijder
  • Xavi Herández
  • Andrés Iniesta
  • Edgar Davids
  • Alexis Sanchez
  • Zola
  • Philipp Lahm

These world class players are all less than 170 cm. Another thing, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi are the best soccer players ever! Although there are sports where you need to be tall, it all depends on your talent and your hard work.

  • Those are surely very strong player, but is not possible to say that in football being small is an advantage
    – Ale
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 9:15
  • There are many examples of players as great as these who are taller than 170cm, sometimes substantially so. Just among those reaching at least 180, you find Cruyff (180), Figo (180), Totti (180), Raúl (180) Laudrup (183), Shevchenko (183), Ronaldo (Brazilian, 183), Zidane (185), Ronaldo (Portuguese, 185), Bergkamp (185), Rivaldo (186), Maldini (186), Henry (188), van Basten (188), Gullit (190), Sócrates (192), Ibrahimoviċ (195), and many others. Other than their height, the common feature of all these players is their outstanding technical ability.
    – Koldito
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 11:26

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